How do I complain about the service I get from the Child Support Agency? Information and guidance

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1 How do I complain about the service I get from the Child Support Agency? Information and guidance

2 What is this leaflet about? This leaflet explains how you can make a complaint about the service you have received from us. It gives details of how to make a complaint and tells you what we will do when we receive it. This leaflet does not explain what to do if you disagree with a decision we have made about a child maintenance calculation. If you want to know more about asking us to look at a decision again or appealing against our decisions, get a copy of How can I appeal against a child maintenance decision! (CSL307). See the back page for details. In this leaflet we use some standard terms to talk about our services and the way we work. A glossary at the end of this leaflet explains them. Important information about this leaflet This leaflet is only a guide and does not cover every circumstance. We have done our best to make sure the leaflet is correct as of 28 October 2013, but it may not reflect changes to the law or our procedures after this date. You may wish to get independent advice before making financial decisions based on the leaflet. 3

3 About us The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the Government s child maintenance service. It is provided by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. Our role is to make sure that parents who live apart from their children contribute towards their children s upkeep by paying child maintenance. We use a standard process to work out how much child maintenance should be paid in each case and to manage the payments. We can take legal action if the right amount of money is not paid at the right time. To get help or more information, visit our website or call us on or (textphone). For details of call charges, opening times and our Welsh-language helpline, see page 18. If you want to make a family-based arrangement, rather than one through the CSA, contact Child Maintenance Options for impartial information and support. Visit their website at or call them on or (textphone). 4

4 Contents How do I complain about the service I get from the CSA? How will the CSA deal with my complaint? (Stage 1) What happens if I m not happy with the way my complaint was dealt with by the Complaints Resolution Team? (Stage 2) What happens if I m not satisfied with the way my complaint was handled by the CSA? Can I get help to make my complaint? Will I get compensation? Where can I get more help and information?

5 How do I complain about the service I get from the CSA? You can usually sort out problems with our service by talking to the people dealing with your case. But if you are still not happy about the service you have received from us, you can make a complaint. What is a complaint? If you re not happy with the way we ve managed your case or the level of service you ve received from us then this is a complaint. You cannot appeal through the legal system against these things. Instead you should tell us that you re dissatisfied and we ll do our best to put things right. What is an appeal? If you think we have worked out child maintenance incorrectly, or if you have any information that would affect it that we haven t already considered, then you can ask us to look at the decision again. You need to get in touch with us within one month of the date of the letter telling you about our decision. We will then look at our decision again. We call this a mandatory reconsideration. You can call us using the phone number on the front of the letter. If you still think our decision is incorrect after your mandatory reconsideration you will be able to appeal against the decision to a first-tier tribunal managed by HM Courts! Tribunals Service (HMCTS). You cannot appeal to HMCTS against our decision until we have done our mandatory reconsideration. 6

6 If you have a complaint about the service you have received from Child Maintenance Options, you should contact them. We do not deal with any complaints about Child Maintenance Options. What happens next? The people dealing with your case at the time you make your complaint will look at the issues you have raised. They should respond to you within 15 days. If you aren t satisfied with the way that the people dealing with your case have handled the issues you have raised, or if there has been an unreasonable delay, you can contact the Aomplaints Resolution Team direct by calling the phone number or writing to the address in the top right-hand corner of the last letter we sent you. Alternatively, you can send an using our on-line complaints form. You can find this in the Your case section of our website at When the Complaints Resolution Team gets the complaint from you or the people dealing with your case, they will follow the complaints process on the next page. This formally begins our complaints process. We aim to resolve all complaints, using this complaints process, within 40 working days from the date the complaint is received by the Complaints Resolution Team. 7

7 Stage 1 Xou contact our Aomplaints Resolution Team. The team will let you know they have received your complaint within 2 working days. They will try to sort out your complaint or agree how to sort it out within 15 working days. If you are satisfied with the way your complaint has been sorted out, we won t take further action. If you are not satisfied with the way that your complaint has been sorted out, or you think there has been an unreasonable delay you can ask our Aomplaints Review Team to look at it. Go to stage 2. If they think it may take more than 15 days to sort out a complaint, we will keep you regularly updated about progress and agree a timetable with you. 8

8 Stage 2 Xou can ask the Aomplaints Resolution Team to pass your complaint to the Aomplaints Review Team or you can contact them direct. If you are still not satisfied with the way your complaint has been sorted out, you can contact the Independent Case Examiner. See page 14 for details on how to do this. They will let you know they have received your complaint within 2 working days. They will try to sort out your complaint or agree how to sort it out within 15 working days. If they think it may take more than 15 days to sort out a complaint, we will keep you regularly updated about progress and agree a timetable with you. We describe these stages in more detail in the following pages. 9

9 How will the CSA deal with my complaint? (Stage 1) Our Complaints Resolution Team tries to sort out the issues that the people previously dealing with your case couldn t settle. You can find the team s address on the letter we ll have sent you about how much child maintenance should be paid. You can either contact them direct or send an by using our online complaints form. You can find this in the Your case section of our website at They will acknowledge your complaint by phone or within 2 working days of receiving it. If they don t have your phone number or address, they will acknowledge your complaint in writing. They will: deal with you in a polite and professional way treat your complaint seriously and keep it confidential put right any mistakes as quickly as possible, and tell you, within 15 working days, the outcome or progress of our investigations. The Complaints Resolution Team settles most complaints within 15 working days. They will contact you to talk about the issues you have raised and agree how to sort them out. If they don t think they can sort out your complaint within 15 working days, they will try to agree a timetable with you. 10

10 If we have made a mistake, we will: apologise explain what went wrong and why, and make any changes needed to put it right. Your suggestions We are always pleased to receive suggestions to help us improve our services. If you have any comments or suggestions about how you think we could improve our services, please write to the Client Service Manager at the CSA office that is dealing with your case. 11

11 What happens if I m not happy with the way my complaint was dealt with by the Complaints Resolution Team? (Stage 2) If you are not satisfied with the way the Complaints Resolution Team handled your complaint, you can ask our Aomplaints Review Team to consider it. They will check to see if the complaint was dealt with properly and if anything else can be done to help. You can contact our Complaints Review Team by: writing to the address given on the letter the Complaints Resolution Team will have sent you, or sending an through The Complaints Review Team will acknowledge your complaint by phone or within 2 working days of receiving it. If they don t have your phone number or address, they will acknowledge your complaint in writing. 12

12 They will: deal with you in a polite and professional way treat your complaint seriously and keep it confidential put right any mistakes as quickly as possible, and tell you, within 15 working days, the outcome or progress of our investigations. If we have made a mistake, we will: apologise explain what went wrong and why, and make any changes needed to put it right. 13

13 What happens if I m not satisfied with the way my complaint was handled by the CSA? After you receive a response from the Complaints Review Team, if you still feel that we have not dealt with your complaint properly, you can write to the Independent Aase Bxaminer. The Independent Case Examiner is appointed by the Government to give an independent view on complaints about how we have handled a case. The service is free and it is not part of the CSA. You can ask your Member of Parliament (MP) to help you make a complaint to the Independent Case Examiner. Your MP can also ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to look at your complaint if it has been through our complaints process and you are still not satisfied with the way it has been handled. See page 15 for how to do this. Before the Independent Case Examiner will accept your case, it must be satisfied that we have had the opportunity to deal with your complaint and that it has been through stages 1 and 2 of our complaints process. You should contact the Independent Case Examiner within 6 months of receiving a final reply from our Complaints Review Team. If you want to know more about the Independent Case Examiner, get a copy of its leaflet Phe Independent "ase #xaminer s Office our service and standards. See page 20 for details. 14

14 Can I get help to make my complaint? If you would like some help in making a complaint about our service, you could do the following. Ask an organisation like Citizens Advice. Our website at has links to several other organisations you may find useful. Ask a solicitor. General advice may be available free of charge. Or, if you qualify, you may be able to get specific advice under the Community Legal Fund or other legal assistance schemes. A solicitor will be able to tell you if this applies to your case. If you are not entitled, you may have to pay all of the solicitor s costs. Speak to your Member of Parliament (MP). Your MP can ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to look into your complaint. The Ombudsman would expect you to first raise the matter with us and allow us to sort out the problem if we can. They will not normally become involved in a complaint before you have taken your complaint through our complaints process, including, if appropriate, having the matter reviewed by the Independent Case Examiner. If you want to know more about the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, it can send you a leaflet How to complain to the Ombudsman. See page 21 for details of the Ombudsman. 15

15 Payment of professional fees You can ask someone to act on your behalf if you want to complain to the Child Support Agency. If you ask someone who will charge you a fee, such as a solicitor, you may be able to claim the fee back from us. We can only reimburse you for any fees you are charged if you can show us that: you made every attempt that you could, within reason, to get the matter resolved using our standard complaint process before you asked the person to help you professionally; the issue would not have been sorted out, within a reasonable timescale, if you had not asked them for help; and the fees you have been charged are reasonable. We will not be able to reimburse you for professional fees under any other circumstances. 16

16 Will I get compensation? Your complaint about our service may show that we have treated you particularly badly. For example, we may have caused very long delays, made a serious mistake or given you incorrect information. This is called maladministration. In these situations, an apology may not be enough because you may have lost money through our action. We may be able to pay you compensation to make up for your loss. If appropriate, we ll treat this as part of handling your complaint. However, there is no legal right to compensation. We may also give you a small payment, called a consolatory payment, if our action or lack of action has caused you: serious inconvenience because we made the same mistakes more than once, or severe embarrassment or humiliation. We ll also consider any evidence you give us that your health has suffered as a result. We ll make separate decisions on whether we ll pay you compensation or a consolatory payment, based on the facts of each case. In some cases, we may pay both. 17

17 Where can I get more help and information? If you want to know more about child maintenance and how we work it out, visit our website at You can download all our leaflets from there. If you would like to talk to someone about your case, you should call the number on the top right-hand corner of your most recent letter from us. That number will be for the office handling your case. If you do not yet have a case with us or cannot find a recent letter, you can contact our national helpline. The person taking your call won t have your personal information so won t be able to answer questions on your case. However, they can help you with anything general to do with child maintenance. They will also be able to give you the phone number of the office handling your case if you want to ask specific questions. You can call the national helpline on from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. Please have your National Insurance number with you when you call. We may record our phone calls to check our service and to train our employees. 18

18 Textphone services If you have speech or hearing difficulties, a textphone service is available on Textphones are for people who find it hard to speak or hear clearly. If you do not have a textphone, some libraries or citizens advice bureaus may have one. Textphones do not receive text messages from mobile phones. Welsh language helpline If you want to speak to us in Welsh, you can ring our Welshlanguage helpline on The line is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There is also a Welsh-language textphone service on Other languages If English is not your first language, you can use your own interpreter or one we provide. Call charges Calls to 0845 numbers from BT landlines should cost no more than 4p a minute with a 15p call set up charge. You may have to pay more if you use another phone company or a mobile phone, or if you are calling from abroad. Calls from mobile phones can cost up to 40p a minute, so check the cost of calls with your service provider. Charges were correct as of the date of this leaflet. To visit our website, go to 19

19 Information in other formats This leaflet is available in other languages, in Braille and on audio cassette. You can order information in these formats online or by contacting our national helpline. We also have large-print versions of this leaflet available for you to download from our website, How do I contact the Independent Case Examiner or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman? You can contact the Independent Case Examiner in the following ways. By phone on (lines are open 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). If you have speech or hearing difficulties, by textphone on Through the website at By writing to: Independent Case Examiner Jupiter Drive Chester CH70 8DR. 20

20 You can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in the following ways. By phone on (lines are open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday). Through the website at By writing to: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Millbank Tower Millbank London SW1P 4QP. You can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to find out more about how to complain to them and whether they will accept your complaint. But complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman must be made via an MP. 21

21 How a child maintenance case can progress This diagram shows you how a child maintenance case can progress. This leaflet covers part of the process at the highlighted stage. Information and guidance CSA can provide information on how the process works, what parents will need to do and what might be an acceptable amount of maintenance in their case. Application A case officially begins when a parent applies to us to set up child maintenance payments. If there is a change in either parent s life that could affect the amount of child maintenance that should be paid, we can review your case let us know. 22

22 Gathering information and calculation To work out the amount of child maintenance that should be paid, we need to gather important information. We ask both parents to provide certain information. When we have this, we will work out child maintenance. Payment The non-resident parent pays the agreed amount on the agreed dates and in the agreed way. This can be either direct to the parent with care, or to us. We then pass the payments on. Enforcement If the payments aren t made on time, we can take action. 23

23 Leaflets available from us What is child maintenance and how does it affect me? (Reference: CSL301) For all parents How do I complain about the service I get from the Ahild (Reference: CSL308) For all parents How do I apply for child maintenance? (Reference: CSL309) For children aged 12 and over in Scotland or their parents How is child maintenance worked out? (Reference: CSL303) For all parents What happens if someone denies they are the parent of a child? (Reference: CSL304) For all parents How can I appeal against a child maintenance decision? (Reference: CSL307) For all parents My case is moving to the child maintenance scheme introduced in 2003 what will change? (Reference: CSL310) For any parent whose case is moving to the current scheme How does the Ahild use and store information? (Reference: CSL311) For all parents How do I pay child maintenance? (Reference: CSL305) For non-resident parents How will I receive child maintenance? (Reference: CSL314) For parents with care What action can the Ahild take if parents don t pay? (Reference: CSL306) For all parents 24

24 Glossary Child For child maintenance purposes, a child is anyone under 16 or someone between 16 and 20 who: is not, nor has ever been, married or in a civil partnership, and is in full-time non-advanced education. However, if child benefit is still being received, someone under 20 can still be regarded as a child for child maintenance purposes even if they are not in full-time non-advanced education. Child maintenance Money the non-resident parent pays to the parent with care to help pay for their child s everyday living costs. Complaints Resolution Team The Complaints Resolution Team try to sort out the issues the CSA team dealing with your case couldn t settle. They also look at complaints about the way someone who works for us has dealt with a case. Complaints Review Team The Complaints Review Team look at complaints from people who are not happy about how the Complaints Resolution Team dealt with the matter. They check to see if the complaint was dealt with properly and to see if anything else can be done to help. 25

25 Independent Case Examiner This is a free service that looks into complaints about how we have handled a case. Mandatory reconsideration If you think we have worked out child maintenance incorrectly, or if you have any information that would affect it that we haven t already considered, then you can ask us to look at the decision again. We call this a mandatory reconsideration. You cannot appeal to HM Courts! Tribunals Service against our decision until we have done our mandatory reconsideration. Non resident parent The parent who the child does not normally live with. Parent with care The parent or carer who the child normally lives with and who therefore pays for most of the child s everyday living costs. In some cases this can be a grandparent, guardian or other family member who is then known as the person with care, rather than the parent with care. Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman carries out independent investigations into complaints about UK government departments and their agencies, and the NHS in England. Complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman must be made via an MP.

26 Information in CSA leaflets is also available in other languages, in large print, in Braille and on audio cassette. You can get any of our leaflets: by phone on (the line is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays) by textphone on , or from our website at Where textphone numbers are provided, these are for people who find it hard to speak or hear clearly. If you do not have a textphone, some libraries or citizens advice bureaus may have one. Textphones do not receive text messages from mobile phones. CSL308 October 2013 Crown copyright ISBN:

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